“And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord ...”
They are given to us at our Baptism and strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Their purpose is to make us docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He works in us through these gifts and each one helps us to progress towards holiness.
It can be difficult to distinguish between the different gifts of the Holy Spirit because they are so much alike. For help, I turn to the Modern Catholic Dictionary, by Fr. John A. Hardon:
- Wisdom: It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. It allows our minds to penetrate the very essence of divine truths.
Understanding: It is given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. It gives insight into the meaning of what a person believes.
Counsel: It enables a person to judge promptly and rightly, as by a sort of supernatural intuition, what should be done, especially in difficult situations.
Fortitude: It gives a person a special strength of will. This gift confers an extraordinary readiness to undergo trials for love of God or in fulfillment of the divine will.
Knowledge: It gives a person the ability to judge everything from a supernatural viewpoint. The object of this gift is the whole spectrum of created things insofar as they lead one to God. Through infused knowledge the faithful can see the providential purpose of whatever enters their lives.
Godliness (or “Piety”): It produces an instinctive filial affection for God and devotion toward those who are specially consecrated to God. It is a ready loyalty to God and the things of God.
Fear of the Lord: A solemn respect for the almighty power and glory of God. It fills us with reverence for Him and dread of offending Him who loves us so completely.
I pray that the Spirit will arouse these gifts within you as you contemplate your role and mission in the Church.